Jim Breen's WWWJNAMES Server

First let's see if your server can display Japanese characters. If the following are a square and a circle, you can: 囗 〇. If not, you can try using the server via a special portal.

(If you know the following information, and are ready to start entering some names, go straight to the server.) Another server you might like to try is the similar Your Name in Japanese.

And a new server is JapaneseNameTranslation, which does automatic rendering of your full name into katakana. (It also has interactive Flash hiragana and katakana writing tutorials, and information about calligraphy and hanging scrolls.)

( NB: If you don't know how Western names are written in Japanese, please read the information below before you try to use the server.)

Before we go a centimeter further, you should look at Eri Takase's Names in Japanese page. Eri has over 2,400 names spelt out in Japanese, along with their Japanese translation as in (a) below. These include the top 2,400 names in the US Census, so about 80% of given names are covered. Eri also has written interesting articles on How to Write Names in Japanese (Part 1) and (Part 2).

Here are some other useful links to other sites which discuss Japanese names:

OK, you are still with me? Western names may be written in Japanese several ways:

  1. sometimes when the name actually has a meaning, e.g. Jonathan means "God-given" or Wheelwright means "wheel-maker", the name can be translated into the actual Japanese word. This is pretty rare, and I won't go into it here. (Eri Takase's WWW page "Names in Japanese", linked above, has some useful examples of such names in Japanese.)
  2. sometimes people like spelling out their name using Japanese kanji which are often associated with such phonetic renderings. For example, my friend Jack Halpern writes his name: 春遍 雀來 which is pronounced "HARUPEN JAKKU". Again, this is not common and I won't go into it further. There are some books around which explain how to concoct such names. One such is "Write Your Name in Kanji", by Nobuo Sato, published by Tuttle and by Yenbooks, 2-6, Suido 1-Chome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112. Amazon stocks it.
  3. by far the most common method is to transliterate the name into the Japanese katakana script. For example, I write my name ジム・ブリーン, which is JIMU BURIIN. (The "ー" marks an extended vowel.) It is this method that which my server supports, and which I will explain below.
[By the way, in this page and in my server you will see a lot of Japanese spelt out using "romaji", that is the letters of the Latin alphabet. There are several methods for romaji, but the one I will use on this page is the Hepburn romaji system, named after the Rev. Dr Hepburn, who invented it in the 1870s.]

The most important thing to recognize is that katakana is not an alphabet. It is a "syllabary", i.e. each symbol represents a syllable. Some syllabaries are quite complex (most have died out), but the Japanese ones are relatively straightforward. Katakana (and "hiragana", which is the other Japanese syllabary) consist of:

Just to make things a little more complex, there are a few other things: In all, the repertoire of sounds available in Japanese is rather more limited than in English. Below are the basic sounds available to you to convert your name into Japanese. You will need to break your name into its basic components and pick out the matching syllables to use. This takes practice, as Smith becomes "SUMISU" (there is no "th"), Sydney becomes "SHIDONI-", etc. etc. Some are quite bizarre; Claire is "KURE-RU" and Perth is "PA-SU". Note that when consonants run together in English, the Japanese equivalent usually is the one with the "u" sound, as this is the most neutral.

Oh, and if you didn't know, there is no real "l" in Japanese. There is a sound somewhere between an "r" and an "l", and in romanized Japanese it is written with an "r". So Larry becomes "RARI-"

These are the sounds:

ba be bi bo bu bya bye byo byu
cha che chi cho chu
da de di do du dya dyo dyu dzi
fa fe fi fo fu fya fye fyo fyu
ga ge gi go gu gya gye gyo gyu
ha he hi ho hya hye hyo hyu
ja je ji jo ju
ka ke ki ko ku kya kye kyo kyu
ma me mi mo mu mya mye myo myu
n na ne ni no nu nya nye nyo nyu
pa pe pi po pu pya pye pyo pyu
ra re ri ro ru rya rye ryo ryu
sa se sha she shi sho shu so su
ta te to tsu
va ve vi vo vu
ya ye yo yu
za ze zi zo zu

You can now go off to the server. Experiment a bit, and come back here to check the table of syllables.

Good Luck!